What you can feed the hedgehog
In the winter months hedgehogs briefly waking from hibernation can be desperate for food. As little natural food is available you can help by supplementary feeding to keep them alive. (In the summer a Mum with hungry hoglets will be glad of the extra food to save time foraging.) Any of the following are acceptable:-
- Meat based dog or cat food in jelly (not gravy, it has a high salt content).
- Meat based small dog or cat dry crunchies, or crunchies specifically for hedgehogs.
- Sunflower hearts
- Chopped boiled egg or scrambled egg (made without milk)
Do not put mealworms out. Recent research has shown that they cause metabolic bone disease if fed in quantity. Also hedgehogs can become addicted to them to the detriment of a balanced, more nutritious diet.
If possible put any food in a covered area/feeding station to protect it from the elements and other animals. Dispose of any uneaten food daily.
Slugs are very hungry creatures and will often eat the food put out for hedgehogs. As a deterrent you could wrap some copper tape around the bowl. This will give them a slight electric shock and deter them from getting at the food. It won’t harm the hedgehogs.
Bread is of no nutritional value so should not be given. And milk is dangerous as hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. A good supply of fresh water is all they need.
Lungworm is the common name used to describe infestation of the lungs with parasitic worms. Slugs can carry lungworm, and the hedgehog becomes infected after eating infected slugs.
A hedgehog with lungworm will have severe breathing problems, will be underweight and also have secondary infections. Once the worms are well established, there is little that can be done to save the hedgehog and it will die a slow and agonising death as it struggles to breathe.
This condition could be greatly reduced if hedgehogs could access more gardens and more people put out supplementary food for them particularly towards and throughout autumn when they need to build up their body weight/fat reserves for winter hibernation and also in spring when hedgehogs wake from their long hibernation.
There is another danger hedgehogs face when eating slugs and that is when the slug has eaten slug pellets. This can cause secondary poisoning when the slug is eaten by the hedgehog.
PLEASE DO NOT USE SLUG PELLETS, USE AN ALTERNATIVE OPTION WHICH IS WILDLIFE FRIENDLY
To avoid the food you put out being eaten by pets or foxes you could buy or make a feeding station that is difficult for anything larger than a hedgehog to access.
How to make a hedgehog feeding station
Buy a 32 litre under bed storage box
Cut a hole in the narrow end measuring between 10cm and 13cm square
Sandpaper the sharp edges and cover the edges with waterproof tape on the inside and outside
Line the box with newspaper and put the food (meat based cat or dog food) and water furthest from the entrance to prevent other animals getting at it
Place a large rock or brick on the lid to stop cats or foxes accessing it.